What Fluids Do You Actually Have to Check in Your Car?

Whether you’re gearing up for a road trip, or you’re getting dangerously close to when your car is due for a tuneup, but you don’t want to go to the effort of taking it to the shop, it’s valuable for you to know how to take care of your car. Car maintenance is such an important skill that you should try to attain at least a small level of knowledge of it at some point in your life. Moreover, there’s no time like right now to learn a new skill. While there are plenty of things about cars that are confusing and overwhelming, there are some aspects that are simple to learn. One of these simple things is checking the fluid levels in your vehicle.

Engine oil

Of all of the fluids you should check on your car frequently, the engine oil is probably the one that you’ll end up checking the most. If you run out of oil in your car, there won’t be anything to lubricate the engine, and it could get you into a serious amount of costly damage. To check your engine oil, have your car parked on a flat and even surface, preferably with a cold engine. Locate and remove the dipstick, wipe it clean, and reinsert it. Remove it again, and see where the oil hits on the dipstick. You want it to be within the normal range (indicated by marks on the dipstick). If it’s too low, you’ll need to add more of the appropriate type of oil. In addition to this, the oil filter needs to be replaced, and the oil drained, every 3 months or 3,000 miles. Remember that if you ever change the oil yourself, there are very specific precautions you need to take with the old oil; you can’t just dump it. Check your local regulations to make sure that you’re in compliance.


Near the radiator, you should find a clear overflow plastic container. If the liquid is below the minimum line, fill the container with a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water. This is important! Don’t add straight antifreeze to your car, and make sure that you mix the antifreeze and water together before pouring into your car. Check the label of the antifreeze you purchase, as some come premixed and ready to pour.

Windshield washer fluid

You’ll want to ensure that your windshield washer fluid is always full. This is what sprays out to clean your windshield, and you never realize how much you need it until your windshield is caked with dirty water and your windshield wipers are just making the mess worse, and you have no fluid left to clean with.

Brake fluid

Under your hood, there will be a clear container that is clearly marked with minimum and maximum lines. If it’s low, you should fill it, but then you should have your car serviced just in case there is a leak, or the brake pads are wearing out. Brake fluid doesn’t generally lower drastically unless it is indicative of a more serious problem, so after topping off your brake fluid tank, don’t delay in getting your car serviced and your fluids flushed out, for good measure.

Power steering fluid

Located near the firewall at the windshield’s base, there is a small tank for the power steering fluid. You want to make sure that the fluid is between the minimum and maximum lines that are indicated. You’ll know if you’re low on power steering fluid because it will be hard to move your steering wheel accurately, and it may squeak or groan when you try to steer. This is especially true when you are going at a slow speed. Having low power steering fluid can cause serious issues because your car’s reaction time as you drive defensively will be significantly slower than it would typically be.

Tire pressure

Although it isn’t a fluid, you should know how to check your tire pressure, as well! Routinely checking your tire pressure will keep you out of sticky situations with a flat tire on the side of the road on your way to work. Having accurate tire pressure also helps you get better gas mileage!
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